The Scottish Pagan Federation Conference 2015

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It’s been a long time since I last wrote a blog post here. Life has been keeping me pleasantly busy since I started my degree in English Literature, spending time with loved ones and doing full time work. So my apologies folks, I do intend to blog more this year.

As of 14th March Hag o’ The Hills turned 1 year old! I’m please to say I’ve had good feedback from people. This blog was really only intended as a place for me to gather my thoughts, get into the habit of regular writing and document my spiritual path. It pleases me greatly that others enjoy reading my words and get something out of my posts. Thank you all for your ongoing support 🙂

11th April saw me and some fellow witchy chums driving through to Edinburgh for the Scottish Pagan Federation Conference. Although I was still bleary eyed from getting up early (I am definitely a night owl), my spirits were high and we laughed and joked our way there.

I was last here a couple of years ago, but looked forward to it more this time around as one of the talks was about Scottish cunning folk.

Christina Oakley Harrington, an academic, historian and founder of Treadwell’s Bookshop presented the talk, taking us on a journey through the witchcraft trials in Scotland, and some of the spells and remedies said to be used at the time. She told us the stories of Alexander Drummond, Jean Maxwell and Adam Reid.

Some of the cures involved transferring illness from a person onto special water (usually collected from a south running water), or by transferring illness to animals or even people. A person’s shirt was cleansed in a south running water to provided a cure. She also mentioned “silvered” water (a piece of silver being placed in the water vessel) being used in place of south running water. She also gave us a wonderful source to search through trial records in Scotland (see links below).

The talk was very moving at points, you could really get a sense of how those poor folk suffered when they were arrested and found guilty. Christina had previously given members of the audience cards with the names of the cunning folk and each in turn were said out loud while we sat and thought of them.  Say my name that I may live. I felt my heart tug as each name was called, and the tears began to well up. It was a beautiful thing to be part of. We cannot change their fates, but we can remember them and honour them.

The next talk I attended was Hollow Hills and High Places by Julia Jeffrey – the artist of Tarot of the Hidden Realm. She recounted her experiences with the landscape and it’s beings, and how she incorporated the essence of it into her tarot deck and art work.

Next up was Paganism in Fairy Tales by Joanna Coleman, which started with Joanna telling us a fairy tale before discussing some of the themes involved. Then we ended with a workshop by Christina Oakley Harrington – Scottish Cunning Folk’s Magic. I was only able to attend this one for 30 mins as my friends and I had to catch a train.

I was pleased to see the animistic side of Paganism represented by this year’s talks. Paganism seems to be growing up a bit, maturing and moving past the usual goddess worship and digging back down to the roots and acknowledging the spirits around us. Not that I’m criticizing goddess worshippers, I just happen to think there’s more to Paganism than just that. I am definitely looking forward to next year’s conference.

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Picked this up from the stalls

Next thing I have planned is to go to the Beltane Fire Festival again at the end of this month. I can’t wait for that! Good company, plus the delights of the festival and then the wonderful pubs after it, then the full Scottish breakfast the next morning. Gonna need it for the hangover 😛

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River Tay

Hope you all have a wonderful Beltane and Walpurgisnacht!

Beannachd Leibh!

The Hag x

Links:

http://www.shca.ed.ac.uk/Research/witches/

http://www.scottishpf.org/

Beltane Revelry: Mirth and Magick at the Beltane Fires

            Oh, do not tell the priest our plight, 
               Or he would call it a sin; 
            But--we have been out in the woods all night, 
                A-conjuring Summer in! 
            And we bring you good news by word of mouth -- 
                Good news for cattle and corn -- 
            Now is the Sun come up from the south, 
                With Oak, and Ash, and Thorn! 

- From A Tree Song by Rudyard Kipling

 

I travelled to Edinburgh on May’s Eve with two fellow witches to celebrate Beltane at the Beltane Fire Festival on Calton Hill. I was last there in 2009, and I couldn’t wait to be there again.

The Beltane Fire Festival of today is inspired by the ancient Gaelic festival marking the start of summer. The festival has been running since 1988 and now thousands of people attend it each year. The Beltane Fire Society also run a Samhuinn Fire Festival and I plan to attend that one later in the year.

Before the festival we stopped off at a nice little gothic pub called Jekyll & Hyde for dinner and drinks.

 

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It was raining heavily outside, not the ideal weather for an outdoor festival lasting over 3 hours. So we put our witchy minds together and using a simple pub table candle and our intent we spent a few moments focusing on dry weather. The bar maid was standing nearby and must have noticed what we were doing, but she didn’t bat an eyelid. Well, she was wearing a t-shirt that said “Book of Spells” on it, so who knows? We got the giggles afterwards and joked about being the power of three, and both me and J joked how the bar maid could be our fourth. Yeah, I think we can quote The Craft word for word 😉

We walked a little tipsily to the Beltane Fires, and lo and behold the rain had stopped. As we queued to get in I could feel the excitement building up in me. All sorts of people were here, old and young, of all races and genders and walks of life. We followed a line of petrol fueled flames and animal masks onto the hill.

We walked to the acropolis which was already surrounded by hundreds of people, so there was no way of getting close to the front. However we managed to position ourselves so we could at least see some of what was going on. The hunting horn sounded, and the neid fire was lit, then came the beat of the drums and I felt the hairs on my arms stand up and the feeling of joy and excitement wash over me.

 

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The May Queen’s procession had begun followed by dozens of blazing torches and we all scrambled to see her, and follow her procession line. The three of us linked arms so as to not lose each other in the crowd. We followed the torches and the drumbeats to a fiery archway guarded by a huge fearsome red dragon, who gave way to the May Queen. The lusty red spirits represent the embodiment of desire and they performed as the rest of the procession moved on ahead.

 

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We watched some of the dancers perform, some using fire poi and lots of drumming. Some of the dancers represented elementals and others resembled animalistic earth spirits. The May Queen had her white painted shieldmaidens to protect her on her procession. The red spirits seemed to be everywhere, performing, dancing, playing with the fire, building up the desires of the crowd. The story line goes that the Green Man is kidnapped by the reds before he can be wed to the May Queen.

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We caught up with the procession as the white shieldmaidens free the Green Man. But he must die first as he sheds the last of his winter self. The May Queen revives him, with the heart’s beat of the drums and the warmth of the flames, one, twice, third time is the charm. He springs up as his youthful self. He dances and rejoices with his new found vitality, and then he see’s her once more. His saviour. Then they dance together and she crowns him. They are reunited with a kiss.

 

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They both lead the procession to the lighting of the Beltane Bonfire to herald in the summer.

 

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We decided to leave after that as we were frozen and the rain had come back on again. It was such a perfect night, and I can still feel the beat of the drums. My photos aren’t so great but here is a link to the photos taken by the Beltane Fire Society.

I hope you all had a lovely Beltane,

 

Slàinte mhòr agus a h-uile beannachd duibh!

 

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Links:

https://www.facebook.com/beltanefiresociety

http://beltanefiresociety.wordpress.com/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calton_Hill

 

Beachcombing on a bonny day

On Saturday I took a short train trip to Carnoustie to visit one of the loveliest souls I know. For the sake of privacy I shall call her the Sea Witch.

The Sea Witch treated me to a delicious salmon and rocket salad for lunch (it was divine) and I bought us some cakes from the local bakery. Afterwards the Sea Witch, myself and her son took a wander down to the beach to collect some treasures. I’ve been determined to find my own hagstones as they seem to be given to me as gifts by other people (which I’m grateful for) but I personally feel for them to work for me it must be found by me. About 2 minutes into my search I came across one and some lovely pieces of sea glass.

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The tide was coming back in so we took a walk along the beach gathering whatever we were drawn to. I found a stone with moss inside it – into my bag it went. I found a piece of bone too but not sure what animal it came from. It was such a lovely day, perfect weather for beachcombing and it finally feels like it’s spring time.

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The Sea Witch treated me to tea and cake in her local cafe and I picked the pecan pie (perfection). Then we took a slow walk back to her home and stopped inside an old fashioned sweetie shop on the way, and of course like the big kids we are we just had to get some sweets and slushies to drink on the way back, giggling the rest of the way there.

We examined our found treasures and spent the rest of the afternoon talking about witchcraft and different modes of practice, and witchy plans for the future. I will be going to the Beltane Fire Festival  (eeeek can’t wait!) and then will be celebrating with the coven the day after as one of our members will be getting initiated 😀 This Beltane also marks the 3rd year I have been with the coven and my 2nd year after initiation and I can’t believe so much time has passed since then!

I’m looking forward to more beachcombing in future, I need more hagstones to make some charms with and looking forward to catching up with the Sea Witch again in her natural habitat 🙂

 

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My treasures